Truro is the county town of Cornwall today, and the main shopping centre in the county.
Truro is a former stannary town, and Truro today is the principal commercial centre for Cornwall. It prospered as a port in the middle ages, but mine waste and silt gradually clogged up the river, and the town declined in the late 17th century. Then the expansion of copper and tin mining in the 19th century lead to it becoming a business centre, and many Georgian buildings were constructed at this time.
Truro began as a Celtic village, but really developed when The Normans built a castle. The garrison provided a market for local produce. In the mid 12th century Truro was granted a a charter, but only had a population of a few hundred.
From 1295 the town sent 2 MPs to parliament. One of the so called "rotten boroughs".
From the 14th century Truro was a stannary town. That is a town where tin could be officially checked for quality and given a stamp (a bit like the silver hallmark today) After assayed the tin would be taken along the river to the sea. In 1838 Truro ceased to be a Stannary town. The other stannary towns in Cornwall were Lostwithiel, Liskeard, Helston and, much later, Penzance.
Wool was also a major industry here. Wool was woven, "fulled" (its body thickened by pounding with wooden hammers worked by watermills, in a mix of water and clay to clean and thicken it, dried and dyed.
The castle was built in the 12th century under Richard Lucy, Chief Justice of England in the reign of Henry II. The remains of the castle were found at the top of Castle Street during work building the cattle market. With the demise of the cattle market, this is you will find today the Courts of Justice, the County Court for Cornwall.
Elizabeth granted Truro a charter in 1589 that brought self government. The town at this time also controlled the port of Falmouth. However Falmouth received its charter in 1661 and it took control of the harbour and river. Although Truro disputed this, the Courts finally settled the matter by dividing the River Fal between the two towns.
During the Civil War Truro was loyal to the King, and raised a detachment to fight for the Royalist cause. In 1646 the city fell to Fairfax and the Parliamentarians, with the King escaping to Falmouth. The mint was set up by the Royalists during the civil war but they eventually surrendered at Tresillian, just outside Truro, in 1642 and Prince Charles fled via Falmouth.
Expansion occurred only in comparatively recent times. In the late 18th century and early 19th century new town streets were built. Bridge Street, named after a new bridge of 1775. Lemon Street, named after a merchant, William Lemon, who built houses in the early 19th century. Edward Street, Castle Street and Francis Street were built at this time too.
When tin prices increased, the wealthy mine owners built elegant town houses. The Assembly Rooms on High Cross, with a theatre as well, became the focal point of the town.
All the westward turnpikes led to Truro, and in 1859 the railway added new life to the town. The Great Western railway built their line through the town, although trains from London stopped at all stations and very slow. Even when through carriages to London Paddington were introduced in 1867, the journey still took around twelve hours.
The progress of improvements to Truro no doubt mirrors the same events happening all over the country. Gas light in 1822. The Municipal Buildings in 1867. A volunteer fire brigade in 1868. A piped water supply at the end of the 19th century. An electricity supply in 1927. And it has suffered the diseases of the times. The Black Death arrived in the late 14th century. And there were outbreaks of cholera in 1849 and 1853.
It became a city in 1877, and was chosen as the site for Cornwall's only cathedral in 1910. This was the first English Protestant cathedral to be built since St Paul's. In 1877 when it was separated from the diocese of Exeter and given its own bishop.
Truro Cathedral has three spires and is built in granite and Bath stone in early English and gothic styles. The existing 16th century parish church has been incorporated into the cathedral's south wall. Uniquely it retains its parish church status with the Dean of the Cathedral also Rector of the Parish. The cathedral was designed by John Loughborough Pearson (1817-1897). The towers and spires of the cathedral are its major feature. The central tower is 250 feet high and the western towers and spires 200 feet. The west front has a rose window and the porch has statues of the first three Bishops of Truro, Bishop Temple of Exeter and four kings.
Lemon Street, built by Sir William Lemon mining magnate and MP for the county, is one of the best preserved Georgian streets in England. The overall effect is to make Truro a very pleasant place to wander in today. It is the main shopping centre for Cornwall
Richard Lander Statue stands at the top of Lemon Street. Richard Lander, with his brother John, went to Africa to discover the source of the River Niger and was, in 1832, awarded the first gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society.
An interesting of the buildings is the Royal Cornwall Museum. Cornwall’s oldest museum, that exhibits minerals, an unwrapped mummy, and masses on Cornwall’s unique culture. There is a collection of Newlyn School paintings in the Fine and Decorative Arts gallery. It is owned and managed by The Royal Institution of Cornwall (founded in 1818).
The Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Portal and St Piran was built in 1972.
A local history of Truro
Truro, Cornwall genealogical information from Genuki
Truro Government site
The Book of Truro: Cornwall's City and Its People Christine Parnell
Truro History and Guide Parnell Christine